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Recreation ideas for the Lake Berryessa of the future could extend beyond the standbys of boating, hiking and camping into more ambitious, uncharted territory.

Adding cottages, motels, glamping and restaurants to the mix is no huge stretch. But now, such possibilities as an indoor water park resort and amphitheater with floating stage are on the table.

A new report done for Napa County by Ragatz Realty depicts Lake Berryessa as a potential prime destination in itself, not simply a lazy afterthought to wine country.

“Lake Berryessa is one of the largest and most attractive freshwater lakes in California,” said the international brokerage firm that focuses on the resort industry.

The Napa County Board of Supervisors is considering whether the county instead of the federal government might manage the stalled Berryessa resort redevelopment effort. A new, 423-page report by Ragatz Realty will help guide the decision.

Is Lake Berryessa a golden opportunity or fool’s gold? Ragatz pointed out that federal government estimates Berryessa a decade ago attracted 1.5 million visitors annually, three times as many as today.

“It now represents one of the most untapped opportunities in the country for new resort development and local economic impacts,” Ragatz Realty said.

Supervisors will hear a report presentation when they meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the county administration building, 1195 Third St. in Napa. The Berryessa item is scheduled for 9:35 a.m.

The county turned to Ragatz Realty for expert advice about Berryessa’s potential. The lake has seven resorts, but two are closed and three have limited offerings as they await long-stalled transitions.

Ragatz recommends that the county, should it undertake the search for resort concessionaires, initially focus on only two of the five resorts in need of redevelopment—Steele Canyon and Monticello Shores.

Steele Canyon should have a full-service marina and boat launch. The concessionaire should be encouraged to operate a large passenger boat for dinners, weddings and tours of the lake, the report said.

Ragatz Realty also wants Steele Canyon to have one or more “major attractions.” That could even be an indoor water park, which would have such things as tube slides, body slides, speed slides, water coasters, children play areas and wave pools.

“Water park attractions can be great fun and adventure for folks of all ages, including conference attendees,” the report said. “We think it possible to integrate views of the lake itself into the design and entertainment theme of a water park.”

California has only one indoor water park and that one is in Southern California, so a Berryessa park wouldn’t have regional competition. But Ragatz noted that financing such parks can be difficult.

Or Steele Canyon might have an amphitheater with floating stage as a major draw. The Ragatz report said Jason Scoggins, a partner with BottleRock promoter Latitude 38 Entertainment, said he believes a Berryessa outdoor music venue could succeed if it has about 3,000 seats.

Other candidates for Steele Canyon attractions are a nine-hole golf course and a conference-and-retreat center.

“In summary, Steele Canyon should be the ‘action area,’” the Ragatz report said.

Monticello Shores, in contrast, could be a quieter area with cottages and glamping, which is glamorous camping. The emphasis would be on nature-based activities, not motorized recreation activities.

“It should be the more exclusive area,” the Ragatz report said.

The report had preliminary thoughts for the other resorts. Berryessa Point could have a marina, sea plane base and motel, Putah Canyon could have camping and motor-orientated water activities and Spanish Flat could be the central commercial area with stores, food services and boat launching.

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For all five resort sites, the county should welcome suggestions by potential concessionaires because they would be the investors and operators, the report said.

Ragatz views Lake Berryessa as a year-round destination, not simply one for the summer months. Hospitality offerings that include bird watching, health and wellness programs, spa services and culinary education could drive off-season and mid-week demand, it said.

In addition, Ragatz recommended the county talk to private land owners around the lake about having such uses as a dude ranch, golf, estate home lots, vineyards and restaurants.

“Extended development beyond the lake itself, if properly controlled, should benefit all and lead to greater recognition and use of the overall area,” the Ragatz report said.

Trying to turn lazy Lake Berryessa into a boom town might please some and alarm others in slow-growth Napa County. The Ragatz report said a balance should be struck between economic gain and protecting the Lake Berryessa natural setting.

“It is not the intent to make Lake Berryessa into a highly-commercialized theme park environment,” the report stated.

Concessionaires redeveloping the resorts will need subsidies for the initial expenses of cleaning up the old resorts and building new infrastructure, the Ragatz report said. That could be done by waiving franchise fees and lease payments for several years.

A group such as Visit Napa Valley should market the lake, the report said. It recommended seeking the endorsement of a well-known celebrity in the fields of nature-based recreation, boating and camping.

Dick Ragatz and Grant Sedgwick will present the report findings to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. The Board will take no action but could provide direction to county staff on Lake Berryessa concession opportunities.

Ultimately, supervisors will decide whether the county will be a partner with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and take the lead in resort redevelopment. The shoreline where the five resorts are located is federally owned.


Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He was worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield. He is a graduate of UC Sa